Business News

Ireland lagging behind European average for female board appointments

By Business & Finance
01 October 2019

A new report highlights that Irish companies filled the lowest share of board seats with women of any country last year.

Heidrick & Struggles, the leading global recruitment firm, has published its European Board Monitor Report, which studies seven leading European economies and the composition of the appointments to the boards of their listed companies. With a growing presence in the Irish Market, this is the first year that the study has been expanded to analyse Irish Market trends. The Board Monitor offers intelligence on directors appointed in 2018 – their demographics, functional experience, and other background as well as the industries of the boards to which they are appointed.

Download the report here.

 Europe’s public company boards are seeking a balance of experience and new perspectives. This year’s report highlights the different paths the boards in each country are taking to achieve that diversity. Now in its third year, the Board Monitor Europe 2019 is designed to provide profiles of new independent directors and track changes in those profiles from year to year.

Commenting on the Irish findings, Stafford Bagot, who leads Heidrick & Struggles‘ operations in Ireland from the firm’s Dublin office, said,

The statistics speak for themselves. Ireland is certainly not leading the way. Ireland has a long way to go in terms of gender diversity on the boards of its publicly listed companies. We also need to place further emphasis on specific skill sets of strategic importance. In the UK, Boards are seeking skills that are lacking in current directors and that are becoming central to their commercial agenda. In the UK, a quarter of the board seats were filled last year by directors with digital or social media experience, and fourteen per cent by those with cyber security expertise. In Ireland, those figures were twelve per cent and six per cent respectively. Irish companies are aware of these risks and I expect a more pronounced focus in these areas going forward.”

Pictured: Stafford Bagot,CEO, Heidrick & Struggles Ireland.

Key findings

Boards of companies on Ireland’s ISEQ added financial expertise of all kinds in 2018, including higher than average shares of new directors with CFO experience, financial risk experience, and financial services experience. More than half of the 34 seats filled went to directors from other countries, but Irish companies filled the lowest share of seats with women of any country in the study.

Compared to the other countries in the study, Irish companies added the highest proportion (35%) of financial risk experience among the new directors. Companies in Ireland and the Netherlands tied in filling the highest percentage (29%) of seats with
directors with CFO experience. However, Irish companies far less often added digital and social media experience with their new directors at only 12%.

Newly appointed directors of Irish companies most often had experience in financial services, with just over a third of the directors having this experience, followed by consumer, at 29%; industrial, at 18%; life sciences, at 10%; business services, at 6%; and technology, at just 2%.